Biharwe Eclipse Monument

Monuments are one of the most important tourist attractions in a destination, mainly because they represent a significant historical event hence worth exploring during your visit. One of the most historical monuments in Uganda is the 1520 AD Biharwe Eclipse Monument nestled on Biharwe hill along the Masaka- Mbarara highway, just before reaching Mbarara city.

The monument stands on 3 pillars representing three realms and kings of the time (Bunyoro under Omukama Olimi Rwatimahana 1, Buganda under Ssekabaka Nakibinge Kagali and Ankole under the Omugabe Ntare Nyabugorabwe V.)

On the top part sits a yellow eclipse like feature and the surface is covered by different pictorials, symbols and Egyptian writings. In 1520 AD, a total eclipse of the sun forced the King of Bunyoro, Olimi Rwitamahanga, to abandon all the cows, women and slaves he had raided from Rwanda, during the reign of Umwami Ruganzu  Ndori.

Omukama Olimi, “The Scourge of Nations”, had led his forces to raid Rwanda after he had finished most cows in Nkore, and was on his way back to his kingdom of Bunyoro, when the eclipse occurred in the late afternoon and darkness covered the whole area.

This terrified the Bunyoro king forcing him and his men to flee, leaving behind their loot which was immediately inherited by the king of Nkore, Ntare Nyabugarobwera, amid celebrations. The cows were immediately named “Empenda ya Munoni” and “Enduga Mwiguru” (cows from heaven).

Some legends say the King of Bunyoro could not go back home empty-handed, so he chose to invade the young Buganda Kingdom under another warrior king Nakibinge. During a battle in Bulemezi, Kabaka Nakibinge and his distinguished commander, Kibuuka, were killed having been betrayed by his Munyoro concubine.  Nakibinge was succeeded by his son Mulondo.

So important were these related events to the people of the entire Great Lakes Region that when historians were researching on the royal lineages of the different kingdoms, the incident that was remembered throughout the whole region was the “Eclipse of Biharwe”.

Using astronomic techniques, space scientists in Europe and America dated it April 17th 1520 AD. That date, and the kings who were alive at that time served as a benchmark to estimate the date of the subsequent kings in the different kingdoms’ lineages.

Uganda is considered to be the eclipse monument capital of the world. Uganda has two solar eclipse monuments that honor important eclipses from the one recent and one for over hundreds of years old.

Back in 2013, a total solar eclipse passed over Uganda, and the small town of Pakwatch in the northwest of the country was identified as the best place to see it, possibly in the entire world. Specifically, Pakwatch’s Owiny Primary School was singled out as a prime viewing location The 2013 eclipse was a momentary economic boon to the area, but the monument is its more lasting legacy.

Visit the 1520 AD Biharwe Eclipse Monument on a Ssamba Safaris’ Lake Mburo Extended Safari or Queen Elizabeth National Park Safari.

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